A German immigrant is the new chairman of the Iowa Republican Party. Ray Hoffman, a Sioux City businessman, was elected to the post this weekend (Saturday). The party’s vice-chair will again be Leon Mosley, a black republican from Waterloo. “Isn’t it neat? What a mix,” Hoffman says. “It just shows you opportunity is here in the party.” Hoffman says it answers the charge that the G-O-P doesn’t welcome minorities into its “big tent.” “I mean my gosh, how (much) bigger do you want to get?” Hoffman asks. “We have one man on this side. You have an immigrant on the other side. It doesn’t get any bigger than that, you know, but that’s all about America. This country is just unbelievable. We’re the best in the world.” Hoffman left Germany a few years after World War II when he was a teenager. “Came here when I was 16, and landed in Norfolk, Virginia. From there, we went to Washington, D-C and eventually wound up in 1972 coming to the state of Iowa and loving it,” he says. Hoffman laughed when a reporter suggested that — as a successful immigrant — he may be Iowa’s version of movie star-turned-governor Arnould Schwarzenegger. Hoffman says when he heard the California governor tell his story during a speech at the Republican National Convention last summer, he did think Schwarzenegger was “telling my story.” Hoffman says his ship from Germany landed here during a longshoreman’s strike, and he made a fist-full of money in his first few hours in America as people on the ship paid him to help them get their bags off the boat. Hoffman runs a restaurant and a gift shop in Sioux City. He’s also a stockbroker. He got involved in republican party politics when he moved to Sioux City. Hoffman says republicans in Sioux City started using his restaurant for meetings, and he listened to the party’s message and thought “that’s exactly how I’m thinking.” In 1990, his wife ran for the state Senate and lost by about 140 votes. She was an Iowa delegate to the G-O-P’s national convention in Houston in 1992, and he went along as a guest. “Once I saw what was going on, I was absolutely, totally hooked, so from that day on, I’ve been solid, 100 percent, just go-go-go republican,” Hoffman says. The 2006 election in Iowa will feature a race for governor as well as closely-contested races for the state legislature. Hoffman’s first task as party chair is to hire staff, then he hopes to shape a unified message. “Build the party, communicate with the party and then put efforts together, put our heads together — come up with a plan, come up with a theme and then go out and run with it,” Hoffman says.
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